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MSNBC is saying that they're not suspending Keith Olbermann because he made political donations. They say it's because he didn't get management's approval first, which violates their employment policies.

Looks to me like Keith was exercising his rights as a citizen.

How can MSNBC interfere with that right?  What if he wanted to marry a person of another race? What if he wanted to own a gun?  What if he wanted to peacefully assemble a group of people in his own home?

What I'm getting at is this: How does an employer have the right to put language into an employment contract that requires employees to get prior approval to exercise their rights as an American citizen?

Can someone explain this?

Originally posted to Man is 5 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:28 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Private contract (16+ / 0-)
    They can say he gets fired if he wears mismatched socks. If he signs off on it - it's between them.
    •  But wearing mismatched socks... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ryvr, Sychotic1, Simplify

      ... isn't a protected right. Political donations are.

      Can an employer really ask employees to give up their rights as a condition of employment?

      •  Even a protected right has exceptions... (0+ / 0-)

        For example...  a gentlemen's club can refuse to male dancers....

      •  Isn't wearing mismatched socks (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aspe4, JimWilson, Dom9000, buzzybodhi

        covered by the 1st amendment? - He asks only half jokingly.

      •  Sure it is ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buzzybodhi

        Wearing mismatched socks could be a fashion statement - i.e. speech.

        But the fact is that private employment contracts can limit all kinds of things that the government cannot.  For example "morals clauses."

        IANAL, but I expect many restrictions impinging on protected classes (for example under the civil rights act) would not pass muster.  So, for instance, an employment clause saying you may not date a black person would probably not fly, but I'm guessing here.

        •  As a lawyer... (7+ / 0-)

          it depends upon the nature of the clause. You are correct in the example you cite here:

          an employment clause saying you may not date a black person would probably not fly, but I'm guessing here.

          That is because the clause is contrary to public policy.

          However, when it comes to political donations (an exercise of First Amendment rights), it is permissible to restrict behavior via contracting between two private parties. The First Amendment does not protect against private action. It protects only against public action.

          Congress shall make no law...

          by Mets102 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:58:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  So is a donation like this... (0+ / 0-)

            ... a private or public action?

            If he didn't mention it on-air, it seems like a private action to me.

            •  Private action... (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              houndcat, Aspe4, VClib, Shadowmage36

              means action by a non-governmental entity. Public action (and I really should have used the term "governmental action") means action by a government entity (or a private actor invested with de facto or de jure governmental authority).

              The First Amendment does not protect against the former. It only protects against the latter so long as it does not run counter to public policy. Let me provide a few examples:

              1. Employer refuses to hire prospective employee on grounds that the employee is Catholic: Impermissible
              1. Protestant church refuses to interview prospective pastor on the grounds that the prospective pastor is Catholic: Permissible.
              1. I require a guest in my apartment to leave because he says he supports the Republicans: Permissible

              While I am not defending the correctness of MSNBC's actions, they do have a right to do this. The First Amendment only protects against government action. This is not government action.

              Congress shall make no law...

              by Mets102 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:11:14 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  This is the Definitive Comment of this Diary (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jrooth, Mets102

            that should answer all questions regarding the legality of the contract. Tipped.

            My back is spineless. My back is yellow. I am the American non-voter. -The Simpsons, Episode 2, Season 3, "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington"

            by Aspe4 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:11:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks. n/t (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mets102
          •  prohibitions against racail mixing... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Mets102

            would probably run afoul of the 1964 Civils Rights act also.

      •  Keep In Mind, the Constitution is a Limit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sychotic1, Mets102

        on the gov't. The only provision that applies to private conduct is the 13th Amendment that bans slavery. It's not the gov't that's telling Olbermann he can't work for MSNBC anymore, it's a private company that's telling him he can't work there anymore per a contract it formed with Olbermann. The solution would be for the state of New York to pass a statute that said it is unlawful to form a contract that restricts political contributions of employees to candidates for public office as a condition of employment.  

        You can form a contract to do almost anything as long as it doesn't call for breaking the law.

        My back is spineless. My back is yellow. I am the American non-voter. -The Simpsons, Episode 2, Season 3, "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington"

        by Aspe4 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:09:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly. (9+ / 0-)
      When Olbermann signed the contract, he made a decision to waive some of his constitutional rights in order to get a paycheck.  MSNBC didn't take away any rights that Olbermann didn't give up willingly.

      I represent the Mondays Are Too Damn Long Party.

      by osterizer on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:32:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  However, the question of how it is legal (9+ / 0-)

        to require someone to give up their Constitutional rights in the private sector is a good one, imo.  

        Say the next step is that you could be asked to give up your right to vote in a binding employment contract - how could we possibly let that stand?

        •  Exactly (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ryvr, Sychotic1

          I was just using this example in a comment below.  How is this REMOTELY legal?

        •  Excellent question. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ryvr, Sychotic1
          nmt

          I represent the Mondays Are Too Damn Long Party.

          by osterizer on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:38:59 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The Constitution only applies to.. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aspe4, JG in MD, Mets102, buzzybodhi

          government action not private action for the most part ,exceptions would be the 13th amendment & part of the amendment undoing prohibition in the early 30's.
           Employment protection is based on certain legislation and bureauocratic type decisions.

          •  Blackwater, Halliburton (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            buzzybodhi

            I seem to recall that some of their employment (even 1099 employment) contracts say employees must submit to binding arbitration in the event of a dispute. If that abrogates their right to sue, it's even more serious.

            Gotta go look it up.

            Two good rules of life: Don't brake on a curve and don't drag the gears.

            by JG in MD on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:43:45 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I don't know. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ryvr, cville townie, JG in MD

            The Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act both speak to Constitutional rights being honored in the private sector.  We don't allow slavery in the private sector.  There's plenty to support the notion that there are certain basic Constitutional rights that must be honored in the private sector.

            Now, it may interest you to know that Federal employees are very limited in the scope of their political activities, but that's a whole other can of worms.

            It just would be pretty scary if one day GM and Wal-Mart came out and told every employee that they had to sign their rights to political activity away in order to be employed.

            •  Let me explain... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              inclusiveheart

              The Constitution applies to government action not private action with a couple of exceptions that I mentioned earleir. The Voting Rights Act is a a piece of legislation enacted by Congress as is the Civil Rights Act BUT the mentioned rights in those two laws are enforeced on private parties by those laws,in other words if rights are conferred onto employees it's by legislative action not by what the constitution says. Slavery isn't allowed in the private sector because the 13th amanedment specifically targets both government & private action in that regard.
               GM & Wal-Mart are far different then say Olbermann & MSNBC it could be argued that as a news network MSNBC needs Olbermann in his role as a journalist/commentator need to be fair and balanced ,in my role in retail in sporting goods my employer doesn't have that same need. In other words Olberman's actions could affect his employers reputation whereas my donating to a campaign doesn't really affect my companies bottom line/reputation.

              •  I understand what you're saying. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                walkshills

                But I also am challenging the notion that employers can direct private activities to the degree that they can in this day and age.  I think that employment contracts have been allowed to go too far to the favor of the employer in recent decades and when they start to chip away at Constitutional rights - we should at least have a discussion about it.

                •  Slavery is illegal (0+ / 0-)

                  Even if your employer puts it in your contract and you sign it. There are rights you can't sign away. That's why they are called "inalienable" rights.

                  "Too big to fail" is not too big to jail.

                  by Angela Quattrano on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 05:09:21 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  But your employers can restrict your (0+ / 0-)

                    right to carry a gun at work if they so choose.

                    People who point out that the Constitution doesn't always apply where you or I work are not at all wrong.

                    But slavery is a good example of where we did inextricably link a Constitutional right to private enterprise.

                    So that's why this whole question is very interesting, imo.  There are elements of the Constitution that a private business owner may not ignore, and there are instances where they are unfettered.  Why they would be unfettered with regard to an employee's personal political activity is the question - or maybe it is where can the line really be drawn more fairly and appropriately?

          •  It seems to me that voting and who your choose (8+ / 0-)

            to financially support is a private matter.

            What concerns me is the fact that he has to disclose this private info to his employer. Once the corporate masters know your choices, they could easily use it to fire all employees who don't vote to support the corporate line. It's also a good way to find out who supports unionization.

            This affects all of us. Read you corprorate core values and ethics manual. I've seen some sketchy stuff in mine in the past. So much so, that the next year, they abandoned "ethics" as a core value.

            "All that's changed is that they don't wear their white hoods in public anymore. They wear white teabags instead." - DallasDoc

            by GrannyOPhilly on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:47:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  This is interesting. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sychotic1, GrannyOPhilly

              I really am glad we are discussing this because it really has an impact on Employer/Employee contracts and what they can and cannot do.

              "My voice just echos off these walls...." -- NIN

              by MotherTrucker on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:52:09 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  Voting is private. Contributions are not. (9+ / 0-)

              Every newsroom in which I have ever worked - EVERY one, going back several decades now - has had a well-established policy that its journalists do not engage in political action. No lawn signs. No bumper stickers on the car. No signing petitions. No campaign donations.

              That's a pretty basic professional tenet of journalism, at least in my extensive experience.

              I'm surprised that it comes as a surprise to so many here.

              You don't get to say, "I support the First Amendment, but..." (h/t Chris Hayes)

              by ipsos on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:58:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  But Olbermann is clearly a commentator. (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sychotic1, walkshills, GrannyOPhilly

                I don't think anyone would accuse him of being an "objective" journalist.

                I can see where this might invite flames.  I'm not saying Keith makes things up, but he definitely has a strong point of view.

                •  "Clear" is in the eye of the beholder (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ben masel, VClib

                  Keith identifies his program as a "news hour," so there's reason to believe that he, at least, considers himself to be an objective journalist, with all the responsibilities that go along with that mantle.

                  It's my fervent hope that this, and the Juan Williams to-do, helps news organizations to find a brighter line between news and commentary, since the old standards clearly aren't making much sense in the world of 2010.

                  You don't get to say, "I support the First Amendment, but..." (h/t Chris Hayes)

                  by ipsos on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:11:56 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  That may have changed in the summer of 2008 (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    walkshills, GrannyOPhilly

                    If I recall correctly, Keith announced that he would no longer be anchoring primary election coverage.  He had asked to be reclassified (my word, not his) as strictly a commentator.

                    Then there is the pesky business of MSNBC not punishing Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan for the exact same thing.  

                    Once again, IOKIYAR.

                    Which leads me to this:  What an employer is permitted to do legally is not necessarily what it should do.  And what happens if it doesn't apply its rules with an even hand?

              •  Actually, it isn't surprising - I know the rules (5+ / 0-)

                that journalists are asked to follow - but there are a few aspects of this particular story that sort of intrigue me - first NBC and MSNBC allow political contributions if they are approved prior by management - that's pretty interesting on a lot of fronts.  Then there's the question of whether Olbermann is actually a reporter or not.  I think of him as a commentator - a columnist more than as a reporter.  Then there is the issue of disclosure which is far more important than questions of writing petty ante checks.  Appearances on these shows are extremely valuable to candidates if they are being interviewed in a favorable light.  In other words, when Joe Scarborough brings on his favorite Republican or Olbermann brings on his favorite Dem - they are both making far greater contributions to those campaigns than either could donate personally under the law...

                Soooo, I think that there is a lot to consider here.  Especially as we move evermore into the realm of infotainment and opinion shows as opposed to actual reporting and hard news programming.  Not donating or going to some rally is no biggie when they can donate a time slot on their show...

                •  Yet another angle of Citizens United, really (5+ / 0-)

                  There's nothing new about journalists with professional non-involvement standards working for corporate owners who do have political stances.

                  But in the olden days, you at least knew exactly what political stances your newspaper or TV station's owner was pursuing with its corporate money, and its ability to use that corporate money for political speech was limited.

                  That's now ancient history, and perhaps the standards need to be revisited.

                  You don't get to say, "I support the First Amendment, but..." (h/t Chris Hayes)

                  by ipsos on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:14:30 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Which is sort of why I raised the (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ipsos, GrannyOPhilly

                    question in the first place.  I didn't ask whether it was legal, but rather how it is legal - meaning how do we let these kinds of inequitable distributions of political power stand?  And really that's a huge question and there are tons of angles to it.  

                    None of it is straight-forward and simple.

                    Although, I think that disclosure on the part of a reporter or commentator is more important than any of the other limitations on their activities with respect to politics.  I think we would be a lot better off if reporters had to tell people their biases rather than were told to keep them under wraps - because you and I both know that many just use that appearance of unbiased reporting to deliver extremely biased reporting - they've made an empire on that over at Faux News.

                    •  No question about it (3+ / 0-)

                      But I'll say this: as politically charged as things are today, the disclosure of bias can easily become an excuse for those on either side to simply tune out reporting that they don't want to see/hear/read. I think there's still something to be said for journalism that at least makes an honest attempt to be (truly) fair and balanced, and I'd like to think I'm capable of practicing that brand of journalism in my professional life - even as I'm over here slinging verbal poop bombs at the other side under my nom de Kos.

                      You don't get to say, "I support the First Amendment, but..." (h/t Chris Hayes)

                      by ipsos on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:33:04 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  yes. I agree that there is a place (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        walkshills, ipsos

                        for unbiased reporting.  Too bad there is such a huge void these days.

                        I used to LOVE my New York Times.  Then they shortened their articles - I got about as much from their reporting as I did from the TV on most issues - and it seemed like a waste of time to read if I wasn't getting the in-depth reporting.

                        I grew up around reporters and know quite a few of them.  Great respect for many.  But they kind of got shafted by the short-format that papers went to and many find themselves trying to figure out how to fit into the new order of opinion and blogs...

                        But I think that the media landscape has changed pretty dramatically and that we might need to start to look at not just how people might tune out, but also how people assimilate information if we want to preserve and cultivate more of the unbiased journalistic approach.

                        I actually don't have time to expound on that thought because I have to go get ready for a thing, but I think there is a lot to think about.

                      •  Come on ipsos... (2+ / 0-)

                        ... we all know that REAL journalism consists of having Jenny McCarthy and the head of the CDC in split screen arguing about the efficacy of vaccines, then letting the viewer decide what's true.

                        Lord, I bet you still do fact-checking and name your sources.

                        Haven't you learned anything from cable news?

                        ;-)

              •  Oddly enough, I couldn't find any of my (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Sychotic1, walkshills

                contributions on opensecret, yet I am aware they are public info.

                As far as journalism goes, I understand the idea behind it, but I have to disagree with it. As Americans, we should all be encouraging each other to participate in our system without fear of retribution from employers. Period.

                I never thought of Keith's show a a news show. To me, he's always given his opinion of the day's news. No different than Joe Snowjob.

                "All that's changed is that they don't wear their white hoods in public anymore. They wear white teabags instead." - DallasDoc

                by GrannyOPhilly on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:24:49 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think the idea still has validity (0+ / 0-)

                  If my county Republican chairman is doing something stupid (rather, "When my county Republican chairman is doing something stupid..."), I want to be able to put on my journalist hat and ask him about it.

                  And I don't want him to be able to turn around and say, "Why should I answer your question when you donated $xxx to the other side last year?"

                  And I want to be able to take the same stance if (or, sadly, "when") my county Democratic chair does the same thing. Or the mayor, or the sheriff, or my Congresscritter.

                  In other words, the story is the story - I am not the story, and shouldn't be.

                  You don't get to say, "I support the First Amendment, but..." (h/t Chris Hayes)

                  by ipsos on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:37:47 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Simple.... (0+ / 0-)

                    "Why should I answer your question when you donated $xxx to the other side last year?"

                    The response to that is, "Because I'm your constituent".

                    "All that's changed is that they don't wear their white hoods in public anymore. They wear white teabags instead." - DallasDoc

                    by GrannyOPhilly on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 03:32:50 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Except that's not always the case (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      GrannyOPhilly

                      The area I cover spans several congressional districts and (this being New York) umpteen towns, cities, villages, school districts, etc.

                      When I'm interviewing any of those politicians, I don't want them perceiving me as representing any particular party or policy. I want them perceiving me as representing the people and their right to know.

                      I believe I can best do that by refraining from public political activity. Clearly, not everyone who calls themselves a journalist these days agrees.

                      You don't get to say, "I support the First Amendment, but..." (h/t Chris Hayes)

                      by ipsos on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 04:03:23 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  Well ... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              GrannyOPhilly

              Political donations are a matter of public record.

              But in general I think it's an important question where exactly the line is drawn.  For instance, would it be legal for an employer to require his employees to vote by main in his presence so he can verify they are voting "the right way?"  I'm inclined to think not, but I'm not sure what the legal basis would be.

          •  But private actions cannot discriminate (0+ / 0-)

            Private companies can't not hire you because of your race. Why can they deny your right to contribute?

            O great creator of being grant us one more hour to perform our art and perfect our lives. ::: Jim Morrison :::

            by Kevanlove on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:05:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I Think I Should Have the Right to Draw (3+ / 0-)

          a paycheck from my job but still get to stay home everyday playing computer games and Wii. But, sadly, I have to be at work from the hours of 8am to 5pm. :-)

          My back is spineless. My back is yellow. I am the American non-voter. -The Simpsons, Episode 2, Season 3, "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington"

          by Aspe4 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:14:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  would appear to be (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Man is 5

          a predominantly state law question because the US constitution tends to protect individual rights from Congress/state action not private actors.

          It is possible to declare a provision of a contract void as against public policy.

          There have been a few cases, notably one under Washington state law in a case of a reporter against the McClatchy Newspapers, where there was a statute that prohibited employers from regulating what employees did in political activities, which ultimately was decided on the competing constitutional free press rights of the newspaper and its ability to control editorial integrity and the free speech and association rights of the reporter, and the free press rights won.  I think if it was voting rights, that would have been held to be the superior right to the free press right, but with courts these days, who knows.

          Overall the court relied on rather limited cases that held that newspapers had an interest in regulating editorial content and preventing high profile journalistic employees from interfering with that control.   Of course, now a days, the newspapers no longer refrain from pretty overt partisanship, certainly other media outlets don't, so what is left to protect.  But you won't get a conservative court to agree with that.

  •  Not a diary. (0+ / 0-)

    Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. - FDR

    by SpamNunn on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:31:27 PM PDT

  •  Olbermann has the right to make those donations (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, buzzybodhi

    But he doesn't have the right to work for NBC (not that they actually fired him).

  •  But isn't this against the spirit (0+ / 0-)

    of the Citizen's United decision?

    And if he gave money to the groups that don't need to report who the contributors are, how would they know?

  •  Easy. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, GrumpyOldGeek

    Many states are "right to work" states.  Meaning you can fired for any reason (or no reason) as long as it isn't an explicitly protected one.   He's not being fired for being a Democrat.

  •  I love Keith, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gary Norton, JG in MD, mlong

    but it was a dumb, dumb move on his part.

    He knows they're gunning for him and he handed them some pretty huge ammunition with those donations.

    It's disappointing, I'd of thought he was smarter than that.

    "It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion." Oscar Wilde, 1891

    by MichiganGirl on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 12:35:11 PM PDT

  •  Hatch Act (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, buzzybodhi

    Federal employees are also barred from some political activities. And NPR banned it's employees from the Rally to Restore Sanity. If that's legal I'm not surprised this is.

  •  free speech? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify

    Didn't the supreme court with citizens united rule that political contributions are form of protected free speech?

    •  That's what I thought too. (0+ / 0-)
    •  MSNBC isn't the government (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RoIn, bridav58, DaNang65, Mets102
      The constitution only limits the government, not employers.  Many states have laws preventing employers from punishing employees for political activity, but there are always exceptions for journalists.
    •  yes they did ...but 1st amendment rights .. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BellaNJ, Mets102

      can only be abridged by the government not by private parties for the most part . At my workplace a few people got into a very heated discussion about politics a few weeks ago and management bascially ASKED certain employees to stop discussing it amongst themselves,not that they can't discuss with others BUT just that the three-four who ended up threatening one another weren't allowed anym ore to discuss amongst themselves. I wasn't involved in those debates but do discuss things with another Pro-GOP co-worker however we're always civil with one another.

    •  Constitutionally protections apply to gov't (0+ / 0-)

      actions, not private.

      It gets tricky.

      In my opinion, even if Olberman were to win a court case (unlikely with this bunch), his contract would likely be out, and all he'd get would be monatary damages.

      You can't MAKE them take him back.

      And there are legitimate reasons gov't can limit Const rights, even free speech (national security, say).

      Most states are at will employment, and don't need a reason to fire anyone, as long as they don't violate their own rules, or do it because someone belongs to a Constitutionally protected class (religion, nationality, race, gender).

      On the flip side, these constitutional rights are said to be "inalienable", and there fore an employment contract to prevent political donations would be uneforceable.

      Imagine a post Citizen's United world where all employers forbid political donations, but corporations can give w/out limit. How absurd is that?

  •  Can someone sign a contract that says (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Man is 5, Ryvr, ubertar

    I will vote Republican? or Democrat? or only have sex on Wednesdays?  There are some rights a contract can't take away.  I remember this couple who was buying a home - he was White, she was Hispanic.  They made her sign an agreement that she would not get pregnant in order for them to get the loan. She signed it and got pregnant anyway.  Could they come back after she had a kid and sue them?

    •  Yes, maybe. (0+ / 0-)

      Maybe more people will start reading contracts and agreements before signing them now. Maybe more people will solicit legal advice before signing anything.

      Contracts become null and void if they include clauses that are illegal or if they violate protected rights. They also must describe an exchange of some sort.

      A loan agreement with such a racial bias clause is arguably null and void. Racial bias in housing is protected. The irony here is that a lawsuit that finds the contract null and void would technically mean that the couple would not have a legal home loan. The actual result depends on precedent and the Judge's decision.

      A bank would be stupid to file such a suit. They would surely lose. If they did, though, it could be appealed all the way to the SCOTUS. I doubt if they would agree to hear it, but if the current makeup of the SCOTUS wants to use such an appeal to overturn housing rights or any related racial bias provisions, they certainly could do this. The stretch used by Roberts and the righties on the SCOTUS to rule on Citizens United the way they did has convinced me that such a challenge to housing protections could reach far beyond the scope of housing alone.

      I'm just venting here, mostly. We need to fix the makeup of the SCOTUS.

      "All people are born alike - except Republicans and Democrats" - Groucho Marx

      by GrumpyOldGeek on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:45:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Answer. There is no (11+ / 0-)

    law against it. The Constitution protects individuals from certain actions by the Federal Government and the States. Congress has also enacted some laws, such as the 1965 Civil Rights Act, that protect people from certain actions by private persons. There is no Federal law prohibiting employers from curtailing the political activities of private sector employees. The Hatch Act governs Federal employees.

    But that may not be the end of the issue. Employment law is complex and is governed primarily by state laws. He is different than most employees because he has an express employment contract. His relations with his employer are governed by that contract unless some or all of it is declared invalid.

    None of this means that what MSNBC did doesn't bite. But, if he was required to disclose/get approval for actions he should have.

  •  May be legal, but real question would be... (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aspe4, Man is 5, Sychotic1, ballerina X, MA Mom

    "If this is the policy of NBC/MSNBC--is this policy: a. Clearly understood and agreed to by each and every employee.  b.  It is universally and continually monitored, and enforced on each and every employee?

    If I were Mr. Olbermann, I'd have my lawyer(s) asking for written proof that the policy is monitored and enforced on all employees.

  •  This is not all that unusual of a provision (11+ / 0-)

    when someone is in a position that requires interviews and commentary on political figures.  It's a journalistic ethics thing, the same way I, as a lawyer, have ethics prohibitions that limit my right to "free speech." For example, if I say certain things about judges in public ("free speech") I can be disciplined or perhaps have my license suspended.  I willingly agree to that when I apply for a law license, just as KO willingly agreed when he took his job.

    The ethical reason is that, if you are a heavy contributor to candidate A, and you interview candidate A, in order to be fair to your audience, your audience should know you have a bias in favor of candidate A when they watch the interview.  Or, if you interview or discuss his opponent, candidate B, your audience has the right to know you have an inherent bias against candidate B when you do the interview or the discussion.

    This policy simply requires  KO to disclose first, so that MSNBC can take appropriate steps to handle the bias in favor or, or against, candidates as reflected by his political donations.  That may mean, for example, if he donated to Conway (as he did) he either has to (1) disclose that to his audience when discussing Paul/Conway or interviewing them, or (2) (more likley) MSNBC can have someone else handle Paul/Conway matters.  

    Nothing illegal there.  

    •  That makes a lot of sense. (0+ / 0-)

      But also feels like prior restraint of his rights.

      Thanks for the detailed answer.

    •  Thank you for the moment of clarity here (6+ / 0-)

      We're all getting pretty heated about "rights being taken away," when the issue is really "professional standards."

      Unlike most of the participants here, I am a journalist and have been all my professional life.

      Just as you agree to a set of standards as a lawyer, we agree to a set of standards as journalists. In every newsroom in which I've ever worked, that includes refraining from overt political activity. Some journalists (KO apparently among them) don't even vote; most of us don't go that far, but we do refrain from any public political speech - no signs on our lawns, no signing petitions, and no campaign contributions.

      You don't get to say, "I support the First Amendment, but..." (h/t Chris Hayes)

      by ipsos on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:04:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess my question would be (0+ / 0-)

        is KO really a journalist in the same sense that somebody on the Metro desk or political beat is.

        The reason for the standard is to help undergird an appearance of objectivity and fairness. I don't think Keith is really doing that kind of journalism. He's more of a commentator than a journalist.

      •  That actually sounds quite similar... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ipsos

        to what used to be the general approach among career members of the military. For example, Eisenhower did not vote until he was at least in his 50s. The reasoning behind this was that they were an institution subordinate to the civilian government, and therefore they should not influence the civilian government outside of offering solicited advice related to military matters.

        Congress shall make no law...

        by Mets102 on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:22:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Employee (non)rights (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MotherTrucker

    My employer has a dress code prohibiting T-shirts with political slogans, ads for alcohol, and other categories of message that could be "controversial".  

    A colleague's daughter has a friend whose dad worked for a soft drink company (Coca-Cola?). By contract, nobody in his family was allowed to consume the products of the competition (Pepsi?). She'd have to drink water when they went to the movies because all the theaters sold only the (Pepsi?) brands.

    Another co-worker left her former employer because they would not allow her Bible to be visible anywhere in the work-place (i.e. on her desk, or with her at break, etc.)

    •  what type of job did he do for Coca Cola though? (0+ / 0-)

      I mean a regular laborer could probably beat something like that. Also  he may have had a case if they fired him for what a family member did.There have been employees fired because they were smokers however here in Indiana a court ruled they couldn't do that but when Evan Bayh was governor he got a law passed prohibiting employers from firing employees for being smokers and I also think there is a federal law pertaining to that matter.

  •  All beside the point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, Kickemout

    If this is MSNBC's policy, and if Olbermann new that this was MSNBC's policy, and if Olbermann knowingly violated that policy - particularly by donating to candidates who were guests on his own show  - (and, based on his own statements, that appears to be the case), then Olbermann violated ethical standards typical for a member of his profession.

    He should be held to those standards regardless of whether we like his politics or not, whether we like his hairdo or not, whether others violate this standard with impunity or not.

    Otherwise, we, ourselves, are guilty of a much more basic ethical violation.

    The ends do not justify the means - that is the most basic difference between us and those whose politics we claim to oppose.

    If he felt the rules were wrong, or unconstitutional, or whatever, he could have, and should have, challenged them. Instead, he simply violated them, and he should be held accountable.

    We should, as citizens and consumers, demand that ALL journalists be held to the same - HIGH - standards, rather than seek to excuse ethical violations for people we like.

    If you don't vote, you're just playing with yourself.

    by RandomActsOfReason on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:07:50 PM PDT

  •  I think news organizations have exemptions... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    burrow owl

    ...to laws protecting employees' political speech.

    In the aggregate it makes sense. A news organization whose reporters are on record endorsing or donating to a particular candidate or cause will suffer a blow to his/her credibility if reporting on that issue.

    What have you done for DC statehood today? Call your Rep and Senators and demand action.

    by mistersite on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 01:08:09 PM PDT

  •  It's called putting Olbermann in his place (0+ / 0-)

    Just one of those power perk thingies.

  •  If he interviewed guests involved in races, then (0+ / 0-)

    he IS at fault.

    Though it would depend on if the contribution was before or after the appearance.

  •  hmm (0+ / 0-)

    I am still waiting for the "standard" Microsoft/GE contract that states this...if anyone has a link? ..cool....
    Has this been posted? If NOT..why NOT

  •  Here's a question- (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Man is 5

    IF you have to ask your boss to donate to a candidate or party, what if they say no? Is THAT legal? And if it isn't legal, then what is the point of making you ASK, if you technically will be able to do it whether you ask or not? Mind you, I fully understand how company rules can be asinine and pointless, but this does get to the heart of the Constitution.

    It's this kind of brain exercise which will hopefully ward off Alzheimer's!

    If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people. Dr. House

    by Uosdwis on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 02:29:24 PM PDT

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